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Ask an Expert: Returning to Work and Keeping Milk Supply Steady

By Nancy Mohrbacher, IBCLC, FILCA

Fan Question:

“I’ve been breastfeeding my LO for 2 months. Two weeks ago I returned to work full time. I usually take 3-4 pump breaks a day. At my first pump I get about 5-6oz and every break after that 2.5-3oz. So collectively I bring home 10-14 oz a day. My son takes about 3 oz/feed and I am worried I’m not going to be able to keep up and I can’t afford to supplement. What advice can you give?”


Sounds like you’re doing really well! On average, from 1-6 months, breastfed babies take 3-4 oz. per feed and about 25-30 oz./day. After they start solids, they need less milk. Many mothers worry that (like a formula-fed baby), their breastfed baby will need more milk as they grow, but that’s not the case. As baby’s growth rate slows, his need for milk stays about the same. To keep your milk production steady over the long term, keep an eye on your total number of milk removals (breastfeeds plus pumps) per day. Every mother has a Magic Number, the number of daily milk removals needed to keep milk supply steady. On average, this is around 7, but for some it’s a little more and for some it’s less.

One way to keep this number stable is to focus on breastfeeding as often as possible when you and your baby are together. For example, breastfeed when you wake in the morning and again just before you leave your baby with the caregiver. Breastfeed before you leave the caregiver after work and as often as possible when you’re together. Think of it this way: every extra breastfeeding means 3-4 oz less you’ll need to leave while you’re at work. Read more about the Magic Number on my blog: http://www.nancymohrbacher.com/blog/tag/magic-number

Pacing bottle feeds while you’re at work can also help baby feel full with the least amount of milk. For details, see my free handout for the caregiver of a breastfed baby: http://issuu.com/nancymohrbacher/docs/mohrbachercaregiverbfbabyrev2/1

To simplify your life as a working and breastfeeding mother, I’ve included lots of great tips in my new book, Working and Breastfeeding Made Simple (available in e-formats and paperback): http://www.amazon.com/Working-Breastfeeding-Simple-Nancy-Mohrbacher/dp/1939807131/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1413648378&sr=1-1&keywords=working+and+breastfeeding+made+simple

I also cover keeping milk production steady in my Breastfeeding Solutions app for Android and iPhones: http://www.nancymohrbacher.com/app-support/

Best of luck!

unnamedNancy Mohrbacher, IBCLC, FILCA is a board-certified lactation consultant in the Chicago area who has been helping breastfeeding families since 1982. Her books for professionals are used worldwide. Her books for parents include Breastfeeding Made Simple: Seven Natural Laws for Nursing Mothers, which she co-authored with Kathleen Kendall-Tackett, and her tiny problem-solving guide, Breastfeeding Solutions  In 2013, Nancy released her Breastfeeding Solutions smartphone app (available for Android and iPhones) to give mothers a quick, go-everywhere source of breastfeeding help. Nancy speaks at events around the world.

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